Brunswick council plots town manager search

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BRUNSWICK — Town councilors are set to launch a regional search for a new town manager, four months after dismissing manager former Manager Gary Brown.

The nine-member council on Monday held an hour-long discussion with a consultant from the Maine Municipal Association to plan its approach toward finding Brown’s replacement. 

Councilors generally agreed to a broad search, advertising the position throughout New England and possibly further afield. 

“I think it is important that we cast as wide a net as possible,” Councilor-at-large John Richardson said.

Even though they also agreed to consider applicants with private-sector backgrounds, most councilors said preferred candidates will have government experience, noting that someone coming from a business background faces a steep learning curve in Brunswick.

“While there are many transferable skills, qualitatively there are big differences between the public and private sector,” Vice Chairwoman Sarah Brayman said. 

“It’s fine with me if someone has been in the public sector and left it, but I think somebody with no public experience would not be an ideal candidate and I don’t know why we would waste their time,” she continued. 

Councilors largely agreed the town needs to find a candidate with the right mix of technical skills to tackle the challenges of Brunswick’s diverse community, and the communication skills to manage a large staff. 

“A person has to be responsive, open, transparent, have interpersonal skills that allow them to interact with a huge range of people,” David Barrett, MMA’s director of personnel services, said. 

“If you can’t do that, it doesn’t matter how smart you are or how good your technical skills are, you’re doomed to failure,” he added. 

Chairman Benet Pols also suggested the ideal candidate could help push a Brunswick-specific legislative agenda at the Statehouse, and Councilor Jack Richardson added the candidate should also be able to develop relationships with neighboring communities and build a regional lobbying coalition.

Barrett, who was hired by the council to coordinate the search, said his organization would advertise the position for three to four weeks.

The organization commonly advertises management positions on its website and the sites of similar municipal groups in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, as well as in local print media, he said. 

Most councilors thought a one-time Sunday newspaper advertisement in Maine, estimated at $800, was unwise. They suggested the money is better spent expanding the search, possibly to the Mid-Atlantic states, and while focusing advertising on trade-specific publications and websites.

The council has yet to determine an advertising budget for the search. 

“I don’t think our problem is going to be finding applicants,” Councilor Suzan Wilson said. “What our pay scale is here in Brunswick, compared to other towns in the state of Maine, and the challenges, and the excitement of working in a town like this, are such that word gets out pretty quick that we have an opening here. I don’t think we should be spending $500 here, $800 here, $200 here to grab one straggler.”

In other business, councilors unanimously approved a utility location permit for SolarCity, the power company constructing a solar power system for Bowdoin College. 

The permit allows SolarCity to run a half mile of underground power lines beneath Hambleton Avenue and Harpswell Road, to connect separate solar arrays at the college’s main campus and land on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. 

Construction is expected to begin in June and last a week, SolarCity representative Matt Gitts said. The project is using directional boring to install the power lines and will create minimal disturbance to soil and road surface, he said. 

Peter L. McGuire can be contacted at pmcguire@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 100.

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